English football will be implementing new protocols to enter the professional game this summer, following the announcement of two new studies on how it affects an athlete’s brain.
The Premier League confirmed on Friday that it must conduct the research for the remainder of this season, before the results are incorporated into new rules that will be agreed with professional and amateur bodies. The results are expected to lead to limits on the direction of training for all adults.
It follows growing calls for action on Cape Town and in particular for limits to be placed on training, with activist and former professional Chris Sutton telling MPs at a select committee hearing this week that a cap of 20 headers per session should be set immediately.
Studies will be essential to inform of any change. The former is to be led among a cohort of players from Liverpool’s Under-23, Under-18 and Women teams and Manchester City Under-18 and Women teams. Players will wear mouthguards with built-in accelerometers and proximity sensors that record the frequency and intensity of impacts from the head of a bullet.
Protecht mouthguards, designed by Sports and Wellbeing Analytics, have been used in trials at Stanford University and are worn by players from several rugby clubs including Harlequins, Leicester and Bristol Women.
A second study will examine match tracking data and video from the 2019-20 Premier League season to observe the intensity of headers in a match situation. There are no plans to limit headers within matches, but the data will be part of decisions on a training protocol to be undertaken by the Professional Football Bargaining and Consultation Committee, a body made up of representatives of the whole game.
Football authorities have said it is important to understand the variation in impacts of different title types before deciding on guidelines. Speaking to MPs on the digital, culture, media and sport select committee this week, FA chief medical officer Charlotte Cowie said there was an agreement on cap limitation but that : [from a long ball] equivalent to 20 shorter. We want a bit more detail on this before we make a decision in the pro game, but we fully intend to do so, as well as in the base adult game.
Announcing the research, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “The goal of the Premier League is to make the game as safe as possible for all players. We are working with our football partners to achieve this goal and the research studies we are undertaking are just one example of our commitment to this important issue. We hope that the results of this project will contribute to the development of practical guidelines for professional and adult play in this country. “